Five Groups Might Live But The Sixth Will Die
Pretty bad news, no? The sixth will die... The fifth might live...
This proverb illustrates that having many groups on the board is dangerous. Intuitively it's easy to understand why that is: five groups need ten eyes to live. Six groups need twelve eyes. Your groups become stronger if you can 'share' the same two eyes to make two groups live. Which is another way of saying that it is a good idea to connect them.
Think twice before you create another (weak) group. The more groups you have on the board, the easier it is for your opponent to set up a leaning attack or splitting attack between two or three of them.
With the old Chinese rules, there was an actual penalty (often referred to as 'group tax') on each group of the board, in that the first two points (the two required eyes) for each group were not counted as territory. See Ancient Chinese Rules And Philosophy for more. 'Divide and conquer' still holds true in Go today.
If I do teach beginners how to play Go, then I would emphasize the importance of connection. "Keep your stones connected, and if possible, cut your opponent's groups." Of course, I admit that I am on the defensive side.
I like "beating" this proverb by winning games with lots of groups. Here I managed to win a game with 7 separately alive groups. 8 is next ;-)
SAS: How should this proverb be modified for different size boards? On a 9x9 board it seems it should be "Two groups might live but the third will die". What about on 13x13?
On 9x9, I won once with four disconnected groups. I don't recommend trying that again. Three groups possible, two far more likely, sometimes one is best.
trontonic: SAS, that must have been seki?
DavidB: SAS: Please post this game if you have a record of it!
That wasn't SAS. That was me, and I don't have a record. -JH
smile?: on 9x9 often TWO groups can win
smile?: on 13x13 ??Three groups might live, but fourth will die